What are Cannabis Terpenes and What are They Used for?

by Megan Panameno - Posted 3 years ago

What are terpenes?

Terp sauce, terps, terpy tokes. You may have heard these phrases while smoking with one of your cannabis enthusiast friends recently, but what do they really mean? Terpenes are essential oils found in the cannabis plant. Not only are they known to have medical benefits, they are responsible for that mouth watering smell you get when the budtender allows you a flavorful wiff at the store. Terpenes are aromatics responsible for a plant’s regeneration, oxygenation, and immunity defense. Essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and extracted from a variety of plants and foods, including the cannabis sativa.

What are terpenes in Cannabis?

More than 700 chemical constituents are produced within the cannabis plant according to The Cannabis Pharmacy. Terpenoids are the principle active ingredients, and responsible for the smell in cannabis. In fact, anytime that you smell perfume, or your neighbors freshly manicured lawn; you are smelling terpenes and terpenoids. According to The Cannabis Pharmacy  by Michael Backes, Andrew Weil (M.D.) and Jack McCue (M.D), the cannabis plant produces up to 200 different terpenes, but only around 30 of them in significant quantities. They are also recognized as safe food additives by the FDA.


8 top terpenes in Cannabis:


Myrcene. Found in hops. Antioxidant. Potent analgesic. Relaxation.


Alpha-pinene. Found in Pine. Iimparts a distinctive piney and resinous aroma. Known as an antibiotic, and anti inflammatory.


Caryophyllene.  This terpene has an unforgettable flavor, calling to mind black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and oregano. Anti Inflammatory. Functions also as a cannabinoid. 


Humulene. This distinctive-smelling terpene is also found in hops, which helps give some beers their earthy and spicy flavors.


Limonene. Found in lemons. Antidepressant and anti inflammatory. This terpene has a lemony flavor, and activates adenosine receptors, increasing effects of THC and CBD.


Linalool.  Perhaps the terpene most clearly associated with the stereotypical “marijuana smell,” linalool is also found in lavender. Has analgesic and sedative effects.


Terpinolene. Found in allspice and juniper, this terpene shows antibacterial activity.


What are terpenes for?


In addition to giving Cannabis distinctive flavors or aromas, terpenes are also thought to provide therapeutic benefits in conjunction with their cannabinoid partners of which THC and CBD are the most widely known. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect. The entourage effect is widely believed to be responsible for the various states of euphoria that you feel when you sit down for your evening pre-roll, based upon what terpenes are inside that delicious little bundle. 


Will terpenes get you high?


Mounting scientific evidence suggests that terpenes play a considerable role in not only tempering the intoxicating effects of THC, but also creating synergy with phytocannabinoids and even increasing their therapeutic value.


Terpenes will not get you high, although inhaling highly concentrated amounts of any terpenes may make you dizzy or impact your behavior. Terpenes can impact the type of high you experience when taken with THC.